Thursday, 30 October 2008

Canterbury and Chartwell

Yesterday we went to Canterbury and Churchill's house at Chartwell. I loved both places. Initially we were a little mad that we were going because it was the same night as the James Bond premier, and we had already missed the High School Musical 3 premier, and there aren't really any more while we are here and we wanted to see some famous people while we could.. But as soon as I got off the bus in Canterbury, I loved it! It is still very much a medieval town in the town center. There are no cars driving through because the streets are so narrow and the buildings are built practically on top of each other. Walking up to the cathedral reminded me of my time as a pilgrim on El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It's not "just another cathedral," another 'cool old church' and a tourist site. This building has meant so much more to so many people and pilgrims for hundreds of years. Even though I don't personally believe in the 'saint' Thomas Beckett, the fact that thousands of people sacrificed their time, their physical conditions and abilities, to walk to see his grave because of their immense faith is humbling. He sacrificed his life for his church, his religion, for god. He had turned his life around from a 'semi-religious' man to become a worthy archbishop in the eyes of his church, and for that he was murdered. No wonder people flocked to his tomb to be healed; he was a man who remained constant and even stronger in something he believed in... something not often found in those dark times full of ever changing rulers and subsequent rules...

After wandering around the city itself for an hour or so, and frequenting the best chocolate shop ever (thorntons! ah!), we arrived at Chartwell. On Monday we watched a movie called A Gathering Storm about the years that were right before World War 2 and the appeasement of the English and Churchill's stand against it. (I would highly recommend it). We learned a lot about Churchill's personality as well as his brilliance as a man and his correct actions towards Germany when no one wanted to listen to him. Plus, we had the opportunity to see more of the personal/fatherly side to him. All in all, he seems like he was a great person as well as a brilliant leader. It became even more obvious how amazing he was walking through his house because he was truly a "Reniassance Man." He painted hundreds of paintings in his spare time, wrote books, was a brick layer, truly loved his family and his wife, loved gardening and feeding his fish... He had thousands of books in his house which he used for references for his speeches... He definitely took advantage of the time that he had to learn, become a better person, learn about the world, and do something about it. He had the ability to inspire not only a nation, but a world (As evidenced by all of the trophies/awards in the house from tons of countries expressing their gratitude towards him for his never ending stance on the war)..

So basically, he's my hero. Someone who stood up for what he believed in when the entire world literally was against him, someone who used his knowledge and his abilities to make a change in the world, someone who was an all around good person. Because of him millions of people are now free who might not be now if he wasn't there to take a stand against Germany when no one else would.

We must have victory. Victory at all cost. Thank you Winston Churchill.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

a day spent reading.. in vain.

I spent all of yesterday sitting in the starbucks in borders by tottenham court road and charing cross road reading a book that I had to do a report on today. I would have read it earlier, but it went missing in the hostel in scotland, and after talking to my professor, she told me I had to just get a new one and still do my presentation anyways. I read forever. I made the powerpoint. I was ready.

Let's just say: I didn't present it today. We "ran out of time." ............ yeah.
At least I'm done.. or at least, that's what I tell myself.

After that, we went as a group to Oedipus with Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort). I only have a few words to say about it other than he was amazing: Dripping Blood from Eyes. Happy early Halloween? yes!


So this past weekend, we went off to Scotland! It began with leaving and walking with lots of purpose to the tube station. We were so lucky in our travel! We got to both of our tube lines and got on them right when they arrived (aka, no waiting time). We got to King's Cross right when they announced the platform for our train, so we were able to go and get on the train. It was a beautiful ride. We took advantage of taking our first JK Rowling appreciative pictures of writing on the train. When we arrived in Edinburgh, we decided to go with the wind..that turned out to be quite literal because it was the most windy place that I have EVER been in. The best part was that everything was green.

Even the statues were 'green-ing'--they couldn't keep the moss off! We walked around without a map going into churches and places just becasue we wanted to, ended up eating dinner, and then walking out of dinner and finding our hostel within, literally 2 mins. We were very Lucky. That night we went to Mary Poppins! It was a very magical show with people flying and tap dancing on the ceiling.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

hot chocolate and toast.

I honestly can not think of any time in my life that I have consumed more hot chocolate and toast. I even have started to love the heels of the bread because that is what is left over the most. (these two things are the only replenished free foods that are provided at the london centre).. and now as I have some more, sitting in the servery before writing my paper, I am completely satisfied. Thank you London Centre. I am now well fed, and all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

Plus, we just watched a very awkward version of Twelfth Night and had to quickly over ride it with a showing of She's the Man. I am now more affirmed in my abilities as a person because I know that I will "do great things." Thank you.

After the paper, I'm off to Scotland for the weekend! Excitement!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

walking for walking's sake

We went as a group to Saint Paul's Cathedral the other day. It was fun to go again, but I was honestly a little 'cathedraled out.' However, out of the top three biggest domes (all of which I can now say that I have been to the top of!!) I think that I like Saint Pauls the best. It is decorated in mostly white stone, and only little gold touches everywhere except for the apse where it goes a little glitz crazy, but other than that, it stickes nicely to simply suiting the baroque style that it is and not over emphasizing itself.. if that makes sense.. The dome itself is a black and white painting that tries to evoke the sense of a 3D freize. The Duomo in Florence has a beautifully colored painted dome, but the rest of the cathedral was too plain on the inside, especially from the very brightly colored outside. St Peters in Rome was huge, with huge brightly colored mosaics and tons of gold. It is gorgeous, but I also like the fact that both times I have been to St Pauls there have been very few people there (comparatively speaking), and you have more time to silently and peacefully soak in Christopher Wren's architecture. Wow.. here I am, just writing for myself, and sounding all comparative and academic.
Anyways.. the reason that I'm even writing this post is because after I was in Saint Pauls, I started contemplating the significance of life and the impact that one person can have on the world. It's interesting how we are always told that the material things in life don't matter, however it is only through the creation of these material things, books, statues, cathedrals, that we are able to have a significant part in other's lives and be remembered and/or useful to future generations. As I was thinking about this, I realized that the only thing that truly is important in life is the unavoidable action and interaction that we as human beings do. We really can do anything (with only a few limitations like physical ability, laws, morals, etc..) and it is only through our choices and our action that these things will ever get done. From there I decided that I wasn't going to waste my afternoon with doing nothing, so I decided to walk home! It was great! I walked from Saint Pauls, down Fleet Street, past a couple of theaters (including the one where Lion King is playing), past Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, down The Mall, past Buckingham palace, and up along and through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It was great! A crisp fresh fall day with the wind lightly blowing, listening to my music and watching all of the people going by with their personal agendas. I really have no idea how long it took me, but I'm guessing it was around 2 hours, it felt shorter, but I don't know how the time passed if it wasn't through my walking..
Bascially. I had a great and enlightening day. Love those.
Not to be out done, I finished the day by going to the ballet of Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House. The spectacle of ballet was something, and I enjoyed the scenes that moved the plot along, but all in all, I have to say, ballet is not necessarily my favorite thing.. I have to admit; it was beautiful, and the fourth act was stunning.

Birmingham, Wales, and Football!

This past weekend I had the great opportunity to go to Wales. After we were in Stratford-upon-avon (which I love to death), and after we saw Love Labour's Lost with David Tennant (who is amazing and has a great accent. seriously.) the four of us girls ventured out into the unknown, got a taxi (with driver number 666) and got to the one and only hostel in Stratford. It was a very cute place, and amazingly we got our own room. So, after the initial, short lived, but really appreciated dance party of being on our own, we set in and had a good night's rest. The next morning we had a good old fashioned English breakfast (hard boiled eggs, and baked tomatoes included) and got in a taxi to head for the train station. The train ride was one of 3 that we were to take that day to finally get to Leominster, Wales, and it went smoothly (except for the annoying train ticket guy who boasted that he could have gotten us cheaper tickets.. really mr. train ticket guy? if you couldn't have gotten us cheaper tickets, I would have been worried cause IT'S YOUR JOB! basically, a little aggravating).
After arriving in Birmingham and walking to the Birmingham New Street station (soon to become a very familiar place) we got on the train to Hereford. Alas, along the way there was a freight train that broke down and made us delay an hour and a half.

As we approached our third stop of seven, they said that the train was actually going to terminate. It's moments like these that I am very grateful for a lot of patience and a previous knowledge of traveling in Europe and its ubiquitous hassles. (yes. favorite word use check!). Then we got a bus to get to Hereford from Worcester (pronouned Wooster (like rooster)). We got to Hereford at 1 (When we were supposed to have gotten to Wales at noon). Then we had an hour wait there to catch the 10 minute long train to Wales. Even with the wait, it was faster than taking the bus, so we patiently sat waiting in the Pumpkin Cafe. We finally arrived at the station for Leominster (pronounce LEMster) at around 2:15, and it was completely deserted.

We decided to just walk in the general direction of the town and luckily that didn't take too long (with Leominster being quite small). We found the tourist shop and the number for a taxi to come get us (one of the three in the town).
Finally we arrived at Croft Castle!

Here are a couple of my favorite pictures from the gardens around the castle:

Then we left and went back to Birmingham to have even MORE adventures! We went to go see a movie, because there is really nothing to do at night in England. Seriously. The last showing at the movie theater in a major city was a hefty 8:30. We saw Eagle Eye (with Shia LeBeouf (sp?) who we saw a portrait of in the castle earlier that same day ha.) and I actually thoroughly enjoyed! I would most definitely recommend it! Then we made it to our hostel, sin map, and it was the most crazy colored place that I have ever been in! The next morning we got up, had breakfast, saw the cops come in to questions fellow backpackers about the drunk man who injured himself the night before, and went off to explore the city of Birmingham. We went to the Bull Ring (huge shopping center) and sat in on a rock concert while eating at Nandos. Then it was FOOTBALL TIME! GO ASTON VILLA:

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Kensington Museum Walk

Today Annie and I did our Kensington Museum walk. While it was kind of rainy, it stayed dry for most of it. I really enjoyed venturing off the normal beaten path to go behind the Hyde Park Chapel. I was surprised to find lots of cute alleyways with multicolored houses that used to be the mews. Also, there was this great park in front of the cathedral back there with big trees, all autum-y. I have to say, autum has to be my favorite season. Nothing really beats yellow/orange/red ivy on old stone or brick houses. ah. love it. Also, I still can't quite get over how much I love the Victoria/Albert museum. The other day I went there to sit and do my homework. I would write up a couple of assignments, and then get up and go to a different room and section until I found a suitable seat, and sit and do more work. It's HUGE. I still have so much exploring to do and I've been 2-3 times. The glass section was beautiful, but still my favorite is most definitely the room that has a ton of plaster molds of famous art like The David, Trajan's Column, The Gates of Paradise, and the entrance to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela! I could sit there forever...
But anyways, we kept going on the walk, and went in this old out of the way church. I loved the more simplistic style and the stained glass. Also, I loved the ceiling. It was architectually grand, but it was only painted with a very simple and plain design. I honestly sometimes think that these grand cathdrals get a little intense and ornate for my liking. Oh yes! The quote for the day came from Annie at the church. She was noticing how all of the depictions of the saints are depressing and solemn. I mean, who would want to be THAT serious all the time? Then we got to talking about how the only happy people depicted are either drunk or evil. To this she replied, "If I were a saint, I would want to be the Saint of Wine so I could at least look happy." Well done Annie. Well done.

Then we found Royal Albert Hall. It's quite large and round, but I still am a huge fan of this building as well. The only time that I've seen the inside though was on TV for the PROMS that they did early in September. It was hilarious though because most everyone was dressed up fancy, but then everyone had and were waving flags and were hitting beach balls around in the seats. So much for decorum England. ha.

For the rest of the day I've just been reading and getting ready for my Mystery midterm tomorrow. That is going to be great fun! Tomorrow is also the start of my first long weekend! Off to Stratford-Upon-Avon (home to shakespeare) and we're going to see Love's Labour's Lost by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Then we're off to Birmingham in the morning and Wales to see Croft Castle. Then on saturday we're going to a football game (Aston Villa v. Portsmouth) and the Cadbury Chocolate Factory! Random side note: the football tickets most definitely said: "If you are not an Aston Villa supporter, please return and get new tickets as soon as possible. Full refund available."
This is going to be GREAT I can tell! Go Aston Villa!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

picture tests

Well, this is the first picture I thought that I would upload, because it's one of my favorites. Yay Big Ben!

More to come.. I'm sure.

the beginning

It's a Tuesday night here in London, and I am doing quite well at not studying right now.. thank you very much. I decided to start a blog.. not only because I had the urge to follow the trend, but because it is just ONE MORE thing that I can do in my ever increasing spare time. Yay me! I also partly blame Sabrina because she started her blog right next to me, and instead of finishing memorizing my sonnet for Shakespeare, I joined in! Basically, I'll be messing with this for a while... We'll see how this goes....